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Muskegon Heights charter board president: Schools will stay open, “That’s a promise.”

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio

Muskegon Heights' charter school board acknowledged at a meeting Monday night it doesn’t know how it’ll fund operations for the rest of this school year. But it is reassuring the community it’ll figure something out by next week at the latest.

“As soon as we have something I will share it with you. That’s a promise,” Muskegon Heights Academy’s school board president Arthur Scott said.

The new charter district was created in Muskegon Heightswhen severe cash problems prompted a state takeover of the traditional school district by an emergency manager in 2012.

Scott didn’t want to talk to reporters about what the board treasurer characterized as a “cash crisis” at the charter district, but he offered some reassurance when asked whether the district could afford to stay open.

“The school will be here tomorrow, next year, the year after that, and the year after that. That’s a promise,” Arthur said.

The state fronted money to Muskegon Heights Public Academy System twice this month because the district couldn’t afford to pay staff. Scott says the board doesn’t know if it’ll need another advance.

He says the board is meeting with state officials and the charter company that’s running the school district. Although they’re not meeting on a daily basis to secure financing, he said he expects a solution by early next week. The next payday is April 30.

Board vice president Carmella Ealom didn’t want to discuss the cash flow problems either. But she said she’s proud of the academic progress students are making in spite of it.

“I’m so proud of them. They’ve been through a lot,” Ealom said. “Through it all, our kids didn’t let this get to them. They continue. They come to school every day. They study. They do what they’re supposed to do and as our test scores indicated they’re making great strides.”

Ealom expressed frustration with the media for focusing on the cash flow problems over the academic results.

“Everybody is ‘bet against the Heights.’ But every time the Heights comes around and proves them wrong. The numbers don’t lie. I wish more people would really realize what we’re doing here,” Ealom said.

Presentations of student testing show improvements in reading and math, meeting most targets for the latest quarter of the school year. The results were similar to what the charter company, Mosaica Education Inc., highlighted in a press release issued last week.

Mosaica Education’s Alena Zachery-Ross, MHPSA’s top administrator in Muskegon Heights, is pleased but not surprised by the results. She says intensive intervention, the curriculum, and an increased attendance worked.

“If our childrenare five years behind, doing the two years' growth should happen,” Zachery-Ross said. “Last year our attendance was at 48% at the high school when we first opened. Now that that culture has changed and it’s over 80%. That’s where you will see ‘how can you make two years growth.' Yes, you can if you change both culture and the academic plan.”

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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